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Posted by: mchu 8 years, 7 months ago


On February 14 and 15, 2013, the conference “The Production and Circulation of Printed Books in the Occident and Orient, from the Accession of the Tang Dynasty (c.618) to the First Industrial Revolution” was held at the British Academy. Hilde gave a presentation titled “Continuities between Scribal and Print Publishing in Twelfth-Century Song China” on the first day of the conference. She examined the evolving relationship between print and manuscript and particularly twelfth-century perceptions of this relationship. She also compared Chinese and English negotiations of this relationship in the twelfth and seventeenth centuries, two periods when for the first time Chinese and English literate elites, respectively, lived in a world where print publishing was a commonly available option.

Details of the conference are available at

Hilde’s presentation made me wonder how Chinese governments published encyclopedic compilations from the middle period onwards. The Song court printed a number of encyclopedic medical texts, but it also relied heavily on manuscript, as in the case of the four famous encyclopedic works compiled in the early Song. The Ming and Qing governments inherited scribal practice in the compilation of the Yong Le Da Dian and the Si Ku Quan Shu in the 15th and 18th century respectively. Why did courts continue to hand-copy encyclopedic compilations when print publishing became increasingly affordable? Is it because of economic reasons? Or does this tell us something about the Ming and Qing courts' attitude towards the dissemination of knowledge and its perception of literate elites?


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